August 16, 2007

Unreliable, irresponsible, undependable

Dad Joey and his two boys

It gets so old. This article is at the request of El Jefe. Personally, I'm sick of writing these stories and you are probably sick of reading them.

El Jefe was gone to San Pedro Sula all day on Saturday. A woman called him about the chihuahua pups. Of course she wanted to negotiate the price and he told her that the price he gave was already reduced L.2,000. She called again about 8 p.m. when he was home saying that she agreed to the price and wanted to come to see the pups because she really, really wanted one.

It was kind of late, not to mention that we were busy and very tired, but when you have a potential buyer, you gotta do what you gotta do, so he told her to come on over. We spent 40 minutes with her, answering all her questions, etc., and finally she said she wanted to buy Blackie. She was from Intibuca, staying in La Ceiba only through the next day and wanted to pick him up at 8 a.m. the next morning as she was going back home.

I said that was kind of early, since El Jefe had had to get up at 4 a.m. for his trip to San Pedro and I didn't sleep at all the night before and we were looking forward to sleeping in on Sunday. She insisted so we agreed that she could come at 8 a.m.

So El Jefe got up early on Sunday, and guess what? Of course, she never showed. She didn't call to say she changed her mind. Nothing.

And here is another maid story. Can you believe it?

I have this habit of mentioning that I am looking for a housekeeper to everyone I meet, in the hopes that someone, somewhere, sometime knows one person in this country of 60% poverty who would actually like to have a job.

Two people wrote from the Honduras Living group to say that they might be able to find someone from other parts of Honduras. That sounded interesting, since it seems a well-agreed upon fact that the women of La Ceiba do not want to work. That is from the men of La Ceiba and the Honduran women who hire other women.

Well, we were about to call one of these leads when our electrician showed up at the gate one morning with his aunt. Through a series of mix ups, I didn't get to talk to her that day but El Jefe, worried about getting the house ready for the party on Sunday, called Luis to see if the woman could come help me on Saturday.

She came at 9 a.m., but through another mix up − think of that kid's game "telephone" with me talking to El Jefe who talks to Luis who talks to someone who talks to her − she apparently thought she was only coming for a job interview.

I told her of la fiesta and my desperate need for help and asked her if she could stay at least a few hours to help. She agreed to work Saturday until 4 p.m. She was worried about leaving her house vacant all day, so I let her use my phone to call someone who was going to go stay there until she got back.

We also talked about the job which she acted eager to take. I asked her several times, "are you sure?," and each time she reiterated how much she needed to work, how transportation wasn't a problem, blah, blah, blah. She even asked if I would need her Saturdays and Sundays! I explained that it was a Monday through Friday job for the same pay.

I told her that there was no way we were going to get the whole house cleaned in one day, but I wanted her to concentrate on the cobwebs and dust and the floors. She was a real power-house. I was amazed at how much she got done. Rather than putting pressure on her, a couple of times I almost told her to slow down because she seemed out of breath.

She didn't do much in the way of details but that wasn't what I was looking for and I figured we could work on the detailed stuff next week. I was busy in the kitchen and cleaning up clutter so she could do the dusting, so she was on her own to do things the Honduran way with no interference from me.

She decided to quit at 3 p.m. I was disappointed, but what are you going to do? It happens all the time so I wasn't even surprised. Just the fact that she could clean half of the house in 5 hours shows you that this is not a hard job.

We ended up sitting at the breakfast table chatting about her life for about an hour. She has lived in Mexico and in the U.S., until she was "detained for two months by immigration." "Detained?" asks me. "Yes, prison," says her. I asked about that experience and she said that they were very nice to her, gave her nice clothes, and that the food was very good.

Finally, I said that I needed to get back to work and asked if she was coming back on Monday. She said "Of course!" and I told her she could come at 8 a.m.

Monday comes around and guess what? No show. I hadn't even paid her for Saturday because I was so sure she was coming back on Monday.

Thinking back, I remember that she kept talking about visas and had the mistaken impression that a US American could fill out some paperwork and bingo!, a visa would be issued. I kept assuring her that it didn't work that way and that it was very difficult for a Honduran to get a visa now. Maybe a visa was all she was really looking for, not a job. Oh, yeah, like I'm so powerful that I can hand out U.S. visas to complete strangers.

El Jefe says that we are fools to believe any single thing that any person tells us. He is more angry and frustrated than I am. It's not just experience with maids, either, it is the same with stores, businesses, tradesmen, you name it. It's hard not to think, "Well, no wonder this is a third world country." Doesn't anyone ever do what they say they are going to do?

And before the politically correct people jump all over me, let me just point out that these people weren't raised in the jungle by wolves. They are intelligent enough to know right from wrong and personal responsibility and all that, but they just choose not to care. So maybe they deserve what they have. I'll tell you one thing: If she had shown up on Monday and I had said, "Oh, never mind, I changed my mind," she would have been madder than hell.

Don't think that people aren't smart enough to know that it is important to show up for work on their first day, because that is really being condescending.

And another thing: I don't want to hear about cultural differences either! I know plenty of Honduran people who feel exactly the same way I do.

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